16 December 2022

Helping those going through infertility or baby loss this Christmas

Territorial Envoy Alice Swain

Photo shows someone arranging lights on a Christmas tree

Territorial Envoy Alice Swain considers how we can support people who may be struggling during the festive season.

For many people, Christmas is traditionally about the children. It’s about Father Christmas, dressing up in tea towels for Nativity plays and seeing the season through a child’s eyes. However, for people who are journeying through infertility or have experienced miscarriage or baby loss, the grief and longing within this season is often heightened, making Christmas particularly tough.

For Christians, the focus of the season is Jesus as a baby, and we can focus on this seemingly picture-perfect family. Christmas cards and Nativity scenes show the serene picture of mum, dad and baby all happy, smiling and at peace.

Christmas is very rarely the ideal that you see in one of those romantic Christmas films!

The thing I love about the truth of the gospel is that it is, in fact, messy, and Jesus’ entrance into this world is no exception. Mary was a teenager, Joseph was a stepdad and Mary’s dear friend and cousin had just given birth after many years of infertility. This serene image of a picture-perfect family simply isn’t true.

For us, 2,000 years later, Christmas is very rarely the ideal that you see in one of those romantic Christmas films! For people who are struggling with grief and loss, it can seem even more raw at this time of year and the season even more messy. So how can we – as church, as family, as friends, as representatives of Jesus on Earth – help people who are finding this season particularly hard?

Here are some suggestions: 

1) Acknowledge the difficulty

For many couples, having someone to acknowledge and validate the pain and grief that is being felt can make a real difference. After all, 2 Corinthians 1:4 says: ‘He always comes alongside us to comfort us in every suffering so that we can come alongside those who are in any painful trial. We can bring them this same comfort that God has poured out upon us’ (The Passion Translation).

Simply saying to someone that you know it is tough will help them to feel as if they aren’t alone. It will help them to understand that the pain is real and that there are people there who really see them.

In a church context, there may be an opportunity to acknowledge those who struggle with grief and loss at Christmas in a more formal way. A tree of remembrance, lighting candles to acknowledge pain or a spoken prayer in a service are all ways to bring comfort in a time of difficulty.

2) Invite them to things but accept any rejection gracefully

Everyone is different, and people deal with pain and grief in different ways. This can be particularly tricky over the festive period.

For some, the thought of surrounding themselves with happy families over the festive period can seem like too much to cope with. It can be easy not to invite the childless couple to family events, thinking they may feel awkward or not want to come, but this can lead to them feeling isolated and ignored.

At church it is easy to ask the childless couple to help with children’s activities. For some people, to be asked is a lovely thing. For others, it is too hard. Inviting people to join in these activities can help them to feel seen and valued, but it must come with the understanding that there is no pressure to attend if it is too hard. It is simply a case of loving them well.

3) Check in on those who are hurting

The Christmas period can be particularly isolating for those going through loss. Social media seems to show every happy family and picture-perfect life. For those who are in pain, this can be lonely and isolating. I believe as God’s church we are called to do as Romans 12:15 tells us: ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep’ (English Standard Version).

We should celebrate those enjoying the festive period, but we should also be ready to check in on and sit with those who find it particularly challenging. A text message, a coffee or a bunch of flowers can go a long way in simply asking: ‘Are you ok?’

4) Remember the losses of loved ones

Many couples who have experienced baby loss talk about how they appreciate those who remember the life that was lost and talk about them. Supporting them might look like buying a Christmas tree decoration with the name of the child on. It might be telling them you lit a candle in their honour. It might mean thinking together what Christmas might look like with them around. As a church, it might involve setting aside time to remember those who are no longer with us, or providing a private space of prayer and contemplation.

Waiting and grieving with this hope in our hearts can transform our lives if we let it.

In all these things that we can do, there is the message of that first Christmas morning that we can hold on to – and that is the message of hope. That hope is always found in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Waiting and grieving with this hope in our hearts can transform our lives if we let it.

As the carol ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ proclaims: ‘The hopes and fears of all the years/ Are met in thee tonight’ (SASB 118).

Written by

Territorial Envoy Alice Swain

Territorial Envoy Alice Swain


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